Agenda and draft minutes

Standards (Hearings) Sub-Committee - Tuesday 15 February 2011 10.00 am

Venue: Room 125, Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton Hill, SW2 1RW. View directions

Contact: Tim Stephens, Tel: 020 7926 2754 Email: tstephens@lambeth.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Introduction

    • View the background to item 1.

    Minutes:

    The Chair welcomed everyone to the hearing, and explained the role of the sub-committee to determine whether or not Councillor Steve Reed had failed, or may have failed, to comply with the Council’s Code of Conduct in accordance with The Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008 and approved local procedure.  This followed from the consideration by another Sub-Committee – the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee, of the report of the Investigating Officer into a complaint made by Betty Evans-Jacas. 

     

    On 2 September 2010, that assessment sub-committee, which consisted of different independent members and a different councillor member from the hearings sub-committee, had concluded that there were two identified failures to comply with the Code of Conduct which should be considered by this sub-committee.

     

    The various parties introduced themselves:

     

    ·        The  Hearings Sub-Committee members

    ·        Supporting officers: Mark Hynes (Director of Governance & Democracy (DGD) – the Council’s Monitoring Officer) and Tim Stephens (Democratic Services Manager)

    ·        The representative of the Investigating Officer (IO) (Norman Coombe; the IO Melissa Bolton had left the service of the LB of Southwark). 

    ·        Councillor Steve Reed and his Solicitor Frances Randle. 

    ·        The representative of Betty Evans-Jacas - David Prichard-Jones.

     

    The Chair advised that the Council’s standing orders that governed the conduct of this meeting included the prohibition of photography and audio recording of the meeting.  Also, in accordance with best practice advice from the Standards Board for England, the whole day had been reserved for the hearing.  Information was also given on the ability of the Sub-Committee to choose to adjourn the meeting and discuss procedural matters in private, as necessary, and then report back to the meeting the substance of any legal advice received.

     

     

2.

Declarations of Interest

    • View the background to item 2.

    Minutes:

    There were none.

     

     

3.

Preliminary procedural issues

    • View the background to item 3.

    Minutes:

    The Hearings Sub-Committee considered the following preliminary procedural matters:

     

    (a)       Quorum

     

    The Chair confirmed that the Hearings Sub-Committee was quorate (i.e. that all three Members of the Sub-Committee were present).

     

    (b)       Locus of those present:

     

    The Chair advised that the parties had not advised that any witnesses were to be called.  The Sub-Committee wanted to conduct the hearing in as fair a manner as possible.  The issue of whether the hearing should be open to the press and public would be considered shortly, but first he advised that: 

     

    ·        The Sub-Committee would assume that Frances Randle would speak on behalf of and instead of Councillor Steve Reed throughout the process.  However, it was possible the Investigating Officer, David Prichard-Jones or the committee may wish to ask questions direct to Councillor Steve Reed.  In that event, Frances Randle would be able to give advice to Councillor Reed before he answered. 

    ·        In the absence of Betty Evans-Jacas, David Prichard-Jones would be treated as if he were the complainant.  He would therefore be allowed to ask questions of Norman Coombe, Frances Randle or Councillor Steve Reed.

    ·        Norman Coombe would be able to ask questions of Frances Randle, Councillor Steve Reed or David Prichard-Jones.

    ·        In the same way, members of the committee would be permitted to ask questions of all the parties – Norman Coombe, Frances Randle, Councillor Steve Reed or David Prichard-Jones. 

     

    (c)  Hearing procedure – Publication of report and exclusion of press and public

     

    The Chair advised that the Assessment Sub-Committee had decided as follows:

     

    ·     Exclusion of press and public: the Sub-Committee was minded to agree with the Monitoring Officer’s view that the press and public should not be excluded when consideration was being given to the investigation report.  It would be for the Standards (Hearings) Sub-Committee itself to decide whether it wanted to hold any part of its proceedings in private, and whether the investigation report should remain confidential (if that was what had been agreed with one or more of the parties). 

    ·     On whether the investigation report should be published with the agenda, the Sub-Committee had no objection to the publication of the report but did have concerns if this publication was well before the meeting.  The Sub-Committee concluded that publication 24 hours before the meeting would enable interested members of the public to read and understand the report prior to the meeting.  The investigation report was confidential in any case until any representations had been received from either side on whether or not the report should be published.  If either party wished the investigation report to remain confidential at this stage, this request would be respected.

     

    The views of both Councillor Steve Reed and Betty Evans-Jacas were sought, and Councillor Reed objected to the publication of the report.

    Before making a decision on these matters, the Chair sought views from the parties on:

    -          whether the IO report should be published

    -          whether the press and public should be excluded from all or part of the hearing.

    -          On the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Complaint 02/09-10: Councillor Steve Reed pdf icon PDF 95 KB

    Report No. SH01/10-11 and Appendices

     

    Contact for Information: Tim Stephens, Democratic Services Manager, 020 7926 2754 tstephens@lambeth.gov.uk

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Chair advised that the procedure to be followed was as set out in Appendices 3 and 4 to the report – the SBE procedure as supplemented by the local procedure approved by the Council.  The Sub-Committee would now proceed in three stages:

     

    Firstly, the making findings of fact stage – the pre-hearing process summary set out in Appendix 5 was the basis of this stage.

     

    Secondly the presentation of the IO’s report, the response, and the Sub-Committee’s decision as to whether Councillor Steve Reed failed to comply with the Code of Conduct in the manner set out in the IO’s report.

     

    Thirdly, the sanction to be applied - if that was appropriate.

     

     

    The making findings of fact stage

     

    The report was introduced by the Monitoring Officer.  The issues disagreed with by Councillor Reed were set out in the pre-hearing summary at Appendix 5; no advice had been received on matters in the IO’s report which were agreed with.  In Appendix 5, reference was made by Councillor Steve Reed’s solicitor to a letter dated 9 June 2010 from Councillor Reed’s solicitors Steel & Shamash to the Investigating Officer.  Copies of the letter were available to the Sub-Committee should these be required, and consideration could be given to whether the contents were confidential. 

     

    Frances Randle asked that the letter of 9 June be released to the Sub-Committee and published.  Otherwise, she confirmed that Councillor Reed maintained the position as set out in the pre-hearing summary, and that this was an accurate summary of the points of disagreement. 

     

    Norman Coombe made his presentation on the makings of findings of fact, and questions were asked by David Prichard-Jones and the Sub-Committee.

     

    Frances Randle then made her presentation on these issues, tabling for publishing:

     

    ·        A copy email sent by Councillor Reed to Betty Evans Jacas on 7 November 2009

    ·        The copy email sent by Councillor Reed to his pa Michael Warren, dated 14 October 2009

    ·        Attendance information at the LFCDA by Betty Evans-Jacas between May 2006 and June 2010.

     

    Questions were asked by Norman Coombe, David Prichard-Jones and the Sub-Committee.

     

    The representations made on the makings of fact are summarised in the separate written decision of the hearing.

     

    At 12:58pm, the Chair adjourned the meeting so that the Hearings Sub-Committee could retire to another room to consider in private the findings of fact.  The meeting reconvened at 2:45pm. 

     

    The Chair advised that the Sub-Committee had:

     

    RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY:

     

    The Sub-Committee had taken account of the SBE Blogging advice and noted in particular the following extracts:

     

    ‘It is the content of a blog and the circumstances surrounding its creation that will determine whether or not the content falls under the Code. A disclaimer in a private blog which says that the comments are not made in an official capacity will not necessarily prevent breaches of the code being found:

     

    The more high profile you are, the more likely it is that you will be seen as acting in your official capacity when you blog or use  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.